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August 15th, 2013

Ever wonder what the big deal is with Catholics and the Virgin Mary? Do they worship her or just pray to her? What’s the Annunciation? What’s the Immaculate Conception? What’s the Assumption? All these questions and more answered in this short two (okay, three) minute video.

To download this video go here and click the download arrow or choose save or download.

August 14th, 2013

ants4This summer, I’ve been watching the hummingbirds whirring up to our feeder and resting on the convenient little perches while they drink. I can almost feel their hunger and need for copious amounts of sugar water to fuel their darting flights through the air.

But what struck me most the other day was the ants. The red sugar water had sunk to unnoticeable levels, so I unhooked the feeder and took it inside to wash in the kitchen sink. As I unscrewed the bottom and blasted it with water, a cluster of small black corpses floated into the sink trap: Ants, maybe 20 or 30 of them, hard to count as they were such infinitesimal slivers of DNA.

To clarify their journey, envisage our house on a hill. Our deck rises a good 15 feet above ground level, and the feeder is hung from the second-story deck, another 10 feet up. Those little slivers of DNA make their way from the ground (assuming they come from a nest in the ground), up the cement foundation, then along the rough clapboards to the source of sugar water. What infinite hunger drives them?

It reminded me of our hunger for God. In St. Augustine’s words, “…our heart is restless until it rests in you.” What won’t we do to put ourselves in the presence of our creator? What obstacles won’t we climb, what walls won’t we haul ourselves up in order to sip from God’s nectar?

Our deck rises a good 15 feet above ground level, and the feeder is hung from the second-story deck, another 10 feet up. Those little slivers of DNA make their way from the ground (assuming they come from a nest in the ground), up the cement foundation, then along the rough clapboards to the source of sugar water. What infinite hunger drives them?

When I wake in the morning and sleepily fumble for my rosary (recently bought at the Musei del Vaticani) beneath the pillow to say a few rounds before beginning my day, I feel that emptiness before prayer …

August 13th, 2013

Photo Courtesy of Amor Sierra, @LifeUnderWar Photo Courtesy of Amor Sierra, @LifeUnderWar

Earlier this year, when the End It Movement urged hundreds of thousands of people to wear a red “X” on their hands to promote awareness of the 27 million people in slavery around the globe, Amor Sierra decided to make hers permanent.

That’s because she’s brimming with gratitude for the ability to choose her own mark and passionate about helping others do the same. Once counted among the 200,000 slaves in the United States, Amor escaped in 1988 and went on to become a successful commercial real estate senior manager. After 22 years of corporate work, she sensed God calling her back to Miami. She obeyed, not knowing exactly what that would look like. Soon after rejoining Calvary Kendall Church and starting work with their campus outreach, she met tattoo artist Will Quiceno. Both former slaves to drug addiction and now passionate about sharing their faith, they decided to join forces. Using Will’s artistry and Amor’s administrative skills, they pursued a dream that had long been forming in Will’s heart — to minister to those who didn’t choose their own marks, and to those who had a choice but regret the marks they’ve chosen.

Knowing that many human trafficking victims have been “branded” by their captors with tattooed barcodes and other marks, Amor and Will decided to start Life Under War, an organization that offers free tattoo cover-ups for victims who have been branded, and for former gang members who were enslaved by their own choices and have found new hope through their faith in God. When they started Life Under War at the beginning of 2013, they reached out to another Christian tattoo artist, Chris Baker of Ink 180 in the Chicago area. The goal of Ink 180 is to establish a national network of tattoo artists and dermatology groups providing free tattoo cover-ups or removals. (Chris was recently highlighted in the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Human Person’s Report, page 23, and …

August 9th, 2013

Whose summer to-do list doesn’t include a hike or trip to the beach or a walk in the park? (And if yours doesn’t — you should add one NOW!) Take this Busted Halo® Virtual Outdoor Retreat with you on your next great nature adventure. Examine how nature is a way for us to understand our relationship with God and also understand God’s call to care for all creation. We’ve divided the retreat into three parts — you can break up your hike, activities at the beach, or other outing to fit the timing of the retreat. No Internet connection in the great outdoors? Click on the image below to download and print the PDF. Take a copy of the retreat (and sunscreen and bug spray) with you and your friends on your next hike to turn this retreat into a shared experience.

Click an image to open or download the 4-page PDF.

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Click an image to open or download the 4-page PDF.

August 1st, 2013

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A lot of people think that the Feast of the Assumption (August 15) is the only big Catholic feast in August, but did you know the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6 and the martyrdom of John the Baptist on August 29? Here’s a quick and easy way to remember all three…

The wallpaper is available in sizes that will fit both widescreen and full screen monitors, as well as mobile devices. Download the files directly below, mark your calendar, and enjoy this easy way to stay aware of important feasts and holy days heading your way.

Download:
16:9 · 16:10 · 4:3  · mobile

July 23rd, 2013

royalbaby3There’s just not that much good news in the world today. It seems that every time you turn on the TV or listen to the radio (people still listen to the radio, right?), the airwaves are flooded with tales of sadness and suffering. There is political turmoil in Egypt, the city of Detroit has declared bankruptcy, and another earthquake has ravaged China.

Naturally, then, when a spark of good manages to make its way through all the muck, people are bound to get excited. Such is the case with the buzz around the “royal baby.” A media frenzy has erupted around the birth of Kate and William’s first child, complete with round-the-clock baby watches and memorabilia galore. From special donuts and hotel rooms to iPod cases and homemade mugs, the profit from products based on the royal baby is set to net Britain close to $400 million.

But why do we care? Why does this baby, an ocean away and only just born, mean so much to us? The answer is hope.

A year ago, the story dominating the news was not one of hope; it was one of tragedy, focused on the deaths of 12 people (and the injuries of many more) in a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The entire event seemed to showcase hopelessness, as even the film being shown when the shooting occurred, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, illustrated the ways that hope could be perverted into a weapon.

Yet life continued to mirror art in the aftermath, for just as the movie’s heroes took the weaponized hope and replaced it with the real thing, so too did we see examples of kindness, charity, and compassion after the tragedy in Aurora. Christian Bale, the movie’s star, visited victims in the hospital. People erected memorials of all kinds. And just a few days ago, on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, two survivors of the attack were married, hoping to turn memories …

July 22nd, 2013

A woman gets groceries for a client at a Catholic-run food pantry in Rochester, N.Y. (CNS photo/Mike Curpi, Catholic Courier) A woman gets groceries for a client at a Catholic-run food pantry in Rochester, N.Y. (CNS photo/Mike Curpi, Catholic Courier)When are you most aware of people in need? Is it during Thanksgiving, when you are giving thanks for what you have, and being reminded that others might not be so lucky? Is it around Christmas, when the spirit of giving is almost tangible? Not coincidentally, the holidays are when food pantries get the majority of their donations. But can you guess when food pantries need the most help? Now. That’s right. Summer is actually the busiest time for food pantries and soup kitchens alike because children are no longer receiving meals from their schools. But when is the thought of volunteering least likely to cross our minds? Now as well. We are busy barbecuing, going to the beach, and enjoying the summer sun. There is no major holiday to remind us that some people simply do not have enough food to eat. But there are ways we can help. I spoke with David M. O’Rourke, the chief operating Officer of the Hockanum Valley Food Pantry, located in my home state of Connecticut. What I learned, while uplifting, shows me that there is much to be done.

Think locally
The Hockanum Valley Food Pantry, located in Vernon, Connecticut, is a program that not only offers food to families and individuals with low incomes, but also provides workshops and mental health counseling in conjunction with the Hockanum Valley Community Council. An incredible undertaking, the volunteers and staff of both organizations seek not only to feed underprivileged people, but also help treat underlying causes of poverty — addiction, abuse and mental illness — while attempting to change the definition of basic needs to encompass more than just having enough to eat. But relying mostly on private donations means that the pantry’s storage unit, where excess food is housed, is empty. In fact, …

July 17th, 2013

catholicvert-1I have just made a remarkable discovery, aided and abetted by Susan Cain’s marvelous book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World Which Cannot Stop Talking.

Here’s my surprise: I always thought I was an extrovert. I am basically at ease in social situations, don’t have trouble initiating conversations (since I got a small tattoo, I have found that a great way to begin talking to others), have been elected to leadership positions numerous times, ad nauseum. But — I really do not like working in groups. It is not my strength. I am far better and more productive working on my own (I am a writer, after all), taking long walks with the dog and thinking about things like Original Sin and the Big Bang. When meetings or lectures go on too long, I tell people, “I think my pajamas are calling my name,” so I can slip out to go home, put on my fuzzy pajamas, and open a beloved book.

Being a member of a high profile writers group, full of strong personalities and talented women, I find that after about a half hour of talk, my batteries are used up. I can almost feel my inner self running down like a motor sputtering without gas. It reminds me in so many ways that our world, in particular our culture, is not constructed for introverts like myself who find too much talk overwhelming, who recharge their batteries through silence and meditation, and who prefer “environments that are not over-stimulating” (Susan Cain, page 12).

When I attend the Protestant church that I love with my husband, one that does astonishing work in the name of social justice, I find I am exhausted at the end of the service. So much hand shaking! So many interactions! Such enthusiast, cheery goodwill! I have to go home and take a nap to recover.

The ritual of the liturgy takes over, and I feel as if I have boarded a train taking me to a fine destination, with nothing to distract me in

July 11th, 2013

supervolunteer-1Hot weather, cold drinks, maybe a trip to the beach? It’s summertime, people! And while you might be tempted over vacation to lounge poolside and work on that tan, remember that there are also plenty of opportunities to give back to your community and beyond. So, be the star of your own summer superhero movie and get out there and save the world!

Help the Poor

People live in poverty worldwide and, in ever increasing numbers, in the United States. We can all do something to help the poor — from volunteering our time to donating to a local charity. This summer, do your part to support your neighbors in need.

Volunteer — Use some of your free time this summer to volunteer and work with the poor. Find out what opportunities exist at your local parish, Catholic Charities or another organization.
Donate — Turn your yearly yard or tag sale into a fundraiser for a charity or ministry at your parish that helps the poor. Drop off any unsold clothing, furniture or household goods at a local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other local charity that might use them, like a homeless shelter or transitional home for people coming out of prison.
Take action — Follow action alerts from Catholics Confront Global Poverty and be in touch with your elected officials about issues related to poverty. What social justice issue are you passionate about? Find a campaign or action alert center that will help you put that passion into action.

Care for Creation

During the summer, it’s easy to forget how much energy we use and trash we create — blasting the air conditioner to achieve cooler temps, flooding the flower garden with the hose, and using garbage bags full of plastic cups and cutlery for the 4th of July barbecue. So, while you’re outside enjoying God’s creation, think about the ways you might care for creation.

Walk or bike — I get it. No one wants to walk 25 miles to work in 85-degree weather. But take …

July 8th, 2013

prayerspace-3I recently moved from Boston to Providence into a one-bedroom apartment. It gave me the chance to renew and use my new space more intentionally than when I shared with housemates. The use of space can have a great effect on one’s spiritual life. The Georgetown University Center for Liturgy had a project called EnVisionChurch, which helped churches discern liturgical architecture, the use of art and space, and put them in touch with professionals who could help in design and renovation. It’s kind of like feng shui for churches.

My goal was to create a personal prayer space in my living room that I would use regularly. It had to be attractive and comfortable enough, and help facilitate my prayer and awareness of God’s presence. In my former time as a Jesuit, an extra chair was standard issue with any Jesuit room, so forming a prayer space around that was pretty easy. Typically there was a lamp next to it and many Jesuits put religious art on their walls. These were things I wanted to incorporate into the prayer space of my new flat. But I also wanted simplicity.

July 5th, 2013

summer-songsTravels and tans, sandals and sunscreen, boats and beaches — summertime is upon us! Busted Halo® has compiled some tunes for your summer listening pleasure. Surf through our playlist, which includes classics and newly released hits alike plus a variety of genres and artists. Along with the music, these songs speak to some important spiritual themes through their lyrics.

Whether you are taking a road trip to your local beach or throwing a barbecue for your closest friends, add these songs to your soundtrack for the summer.

And share your own favorite songs of the summer in the comments section!

#1 Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips
Something about the combination of guitar strums and a raspy voice makes me feel like I’m sitting on the front porch after a long hot day of barbecuing and time spent with my family. Phillip Phillips won “American Idol” in 2012 and this year released his debut album with one of the sweetest songs I have ever heard. “Gone, Gone, Gone” tells the story of a man’s deep, sincere love for his family. It’s a universal concept that you don’t hear enough of in popular music.

#2 Glowing” by Nikki Williams
Nikki Williams is a South African singer and songwriter who began singing at the age of four in her church and in front of family and friends. Although this song was released in 2012, it just recently made Top 40 Charts in the United States. The lyrics are about someone who lights your heart up like you’re “glowing in the dark.” The affirming lyrics on top of

July 3rd, 2013

People watch an Independence Day fireworks display in Independence, Iowa. (CNS photo/Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters) People watch an Independence Day fireworks display in Independence, Iowa. (CNS photo/Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters)Last Fourth of July, after burning my 16th straight hot dog, I finally asked for help. This was not easy. I’m a thirtysomething male. I should know how to barbecue by now. But desperation — and my mother’s howls that “the potato salad is going to turn if you don’t hurry up with those hot dogs” — forced my plea. Ugh. I hate asking for help. I prefer to take care of things on my own. And after all, isn’t that what Independence Day is all about? Independence?

The thing is, grilling hot dogs isn’t the only thing I need help with. And if I think about it, there are a lot of ways in which I’m not independent. In fact, if I really, really think about it and am honest with myself, there are a lot of things that I’m quite dependent upon, such as whatever that thing is that makes my cell phone work, or whatever that other thing is that gives me those billion channels on cable TV, or that other thingy that makes my car start. So, outside of recognizing that my technological illiteracy is bone-chillingly staggering, I hope you were also able to glean from these examples that I’m a pretty dependent guy and the whole notion that I’m some sort of autonomous being is an illusion.

We pride ourselves on our independence. We are a nation of pioneers, after all. And we live in a world, age, era, culture — call it what you will — that looks askance at any form of dependence, be it on family, government or the kindness of strangers. We look with pity on the post-collegiate twentysomethings living with their parents, praying to God that won’t be us. We turn our heads when the person in front of us at the grocery store pulls out food stamps. We nervously cross the street when …

July 2nd, 2013

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Question: I know the Church’s views on cohabitation and premarital sex, and I agree with those. But how does the Church feel about spending the night together without having sex? My boyfriend and I are going on a trip in a couple weeks and are planning on staying in the same room. I am comfortable with him, and although I know we won’t be having sex, I am still feeling guilty about sleeping in the same bed as him for a few nights. Is this considered sinning? Should I feel guilty?
Answer: I’m thrilled to hear that you are living the Gospel message in a way that is very counter-cultural. Reserving sex for marriage is a powerful way to celebrate the beauty of our sexuality. You are embracing the belief that to love means to serve a higher purpose in a way that honors God, your relationship, and the beauty of the way God has created us as man and woman. I want to start by applauding your decision and providing you much needed support, as my experience is that friends and even family may not understand your decision. My husband and I chose chastity prior to marriage, even though both of us had previously been sexually active. When one of our mutual friends discovered that we were not sleeping together, he literally fell out of his chair laughing. I hope you have not experienced something similar, but if you have, I want you to know that you will find great blessings in living by your values and spiritual beliefs.

My personal approach tends to take into account each couple’s unique capacity for living out the reality of chastity. Some couples choose not to kiss until their wedding day. Other couples are able to share some appropriate physical intimacy without “falling” into bed together. The most important aspect is communication between the two of you about your expectations.

As with any choice to sacrifice now for the greater good, there are going to be challenges. And, trying to decide

July 1st, 2013

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We’re deep into summer AND ordinary time, which means there aren’t THAT many big Catholic feasts and holy days during the month of July. That being said, we’ve decided to highlight some of the saints that you might not realize are celebrated during this summer month. Oh, and see you at World Youth Day!

The wallpaper is available in sizes that will fit both widescreen and full screen monitors, as well as mobile devices. Download the files directly below, mark your calendar, and enjoy this easy way to stay aware of important feasts and holy days heading your way.

Download:
16:9 · 16:10 · 4:3  · mobile

June 25th, 2013

weddingbells-4We thought we were just checking the box of official requirements for a Catholic wedding ceremony. And looking around the room at the 52 other couples, it was obvious many of them did too.

We were all undergoing what priests call “Pre-Cana,” some kind of mandatory workshop on preparing for marriage. My fiancé and I didn’t know exactly what that entailed; but we knew this one took a single Saturday, while others spanned multiple weeks or at least a weekend. So with three months to go before our wedding, here we were.

From 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., we dug into the nitty-gritty of married life: managing our expectations for finances, children, chores and the inevitable disagreements. We were given organizational tools ranging from worksheets to checklists to red and green slips.

The slips were especially interesting. We couples would stand with our backs to each other, and the leader would ask questions. We’d raise our red and green slips to show our agreement or disagreement. Then we’d turn around to face each other and see if our slips matched on issues like whether we’d occasionally have a drink at day’s end, or whether we expected to get along well with our in-laws.

Faith and marriage

A lot of us coast — or outright struggle — through our twenties on the religion front. Long brunches, sports training or just sleeping in fill Sunday mornings that used to be taken up by church when we were kids. I’d allowed activities both active and lazy to take me away from Mass on many a weekend, too.

Suddenly I realized: This is a moment for committing not just to another person, but to our faith as well.

All of this was extremely practical and useful.

But there were certain questions that were never directly asked. Questions about our beliefs — and the practice of them. Like is attending Mass important to us — and how often? Are our future spouses on the same page? What about when we have kids? Would we want them to grow up …

June 15th, 2013

Father’s Day is this weekend and it’s time to honor dear old Dad. Fathers share helpful advice and wisdom throughout our lives (or at least they try to.) Even if we’re too busy or stubborn to listen, dads are giving us tips on how to make our lives the best they can be. This virtual retreat helps young adults and their fathers connect with those wisdom moments and one another. You can do this retreat on your own or with your dad! Live far away? Email Dad the link and get on the phone, Facetime, or Skype. So, in addition to a card or gift (don’t forget!) celebrate Father’s Day with your father in a unique way.

June 13th, 2013

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It’s that time of year! Wedding bells are ringing, champagne is flowing, and toasters are abundant as couples celebrate their nuptials.

In a flurry of tulle and taffeta, it can be easy for the happy couple-to-be to forget what a wedding is truly about. Suddenly, conflicts arise over table arrangements and what really constitutes the color “eggshell.” You find yourselves arguing over whether the one-man-band that he wants, which specializes in kazoo covers of this year’s hit songs, or her entryway made entirely of fresh roses and mother-of-pearls is really what the wedding needs. Without warning, you have both become the reality TV figures you used to giggle at together. But it’s not only the bridezillas and groomzillas that can send shivers down a wedding planner’s spine. Let’s not forget the bridesmaid who may have considered shoving a flower girl for a chance at the bouquet. And what about the guest who thinks weeping loudly during the ceremony is synonymous with wishing the happy couple “all the best”?

From planning your big day to being a good wedding guest to ensuring the days that follow your wedding are just as special, Busted Halo® makes getting down the aisle a piece of (wedding) cake!

When planning for the wedding — and every day that comes after:

doubt-flash“Sacraments 101: Matrimony (why make it Catholic)”

Why do we have to have a Catholic wedding? Why does it take so long to get married in the Church? Why does the Church insist we have children? These questions and more are answered in this edition of “Sacraments 101.”

(watch the video here)

“Why do engaged couples have to do marriage preparation?” by Neela Kale

Marriage in the Catholic Church is different from civil marriage. It is no mere legal contract, easily made and easily broken; rather, it is a covenantal relationship in which a man and woman commit their whole selves to each other, in love and fidelity, for the rest …

June 1st, 2013

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We thought we’d pay special recognition to fathers this month through our wallpaper with a depiction of St. Joseph holding his foster son, Jesus. Arguably one of the most important dates to look out for in June is Father‘s Day on the 16th. If you’re having trouble finding something you’ve lost, make sure to say special prayers to St. Anthony on his feast day, the 13th. Here’s a nice little piece of trivia: On June 24 the Church celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist, who is one of three figures whose birth is celebrated by the Catholic Church. Can you guess the other two? Jesus (December 25), of course, and Mary (September 8).

Oh, and don’t forget about Flag Day on June 14.

The wallpaper is available in sizes that will fit both widescreen and full screen monitors, as well as mobile devices. Download the files directly below, mark your calendar, and enjoy this easy way to stay aware of important feasts and holy days heading your way.

Download:
16:9 · 16:10 · 4:3  · mobile

May 30th, 2013

Vacation Church Search

Rather than taking a vacation from church, make church an exciting part of your vacation by celebrating mass somewhere new. While on vacation, make it a point to find an old, popular or interesting place of worship nearby. If you’re in the tropics, search for an open-air church. If you’re vacationing on the East Coast, check out a historical church. If you’re opting for a stay-cation this summer and sticking close to home, visit a new parish in your community. You never know where you will find inspiration!

Rekindle Your Spark

Plan a backyard or beach bonfire with family, close friends, or by yourself! Relax. Roast some marshmallows and make s’mores. When you are comfortable, reflect on aspects of your life where you are succeeding. Congratulate yourself with another s’more! Then, think about what is holding you back. Write down a list of those things that are keeping you from being the person God wants you to be, and throw the list into the fire, burning the paper to mark a fresh start.

Stop To Smell the Roses

Take time to appreciate God’s world around you. Walk barefoot in the grass or on the beach. Swim in a natural pond, lake or ocean. Sit under a beautiful old tree or go for a hike. And while you’re in nature, spend some one-on-one time with God. Share your gratitude for the gifts in your life, including the gifts of nature and the environment, and enjoy your time surrounded by God’s beautiful creations.

Write It Down

Start a Summer Spiritual Journal. Each day, record moments when you feel close to God and moments when God feels further away in your daily life. Writing them down will help you reflect upon these times, and may bring to light new moments of strength or challenge in your faith. In addition to your personal reflections, write down quotes, phrases or scripture that are meaningful and relevant to you at that moment. You

May 30th, 2013

Over the next four weeks Busted Halo is headed into the classroom for a session of summer school. In the tradition of the Busted Halo Question Box, we’ll answer questions about the Sacraments, Catholic beliefs, Church teaching as it relates to modern living, and much more. You’ll be learning, doing a little homework (don’t worry — it won’t be too difficult), and digging deeper into your faith. This will probably lead to more questions!

Each day, that day’s link in the Summer School calendar will start working, leading to a question of faith and its answer. There’s also a form to submit your own question of faith, and each week during Summer School we will give away an Amazon Kindle to the person who submits the best question of faith, as determined by the Busted Halo staff.

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